Rock for Choice Van East Cultural Centre, Vancouver BC - January 10 and 11

Rock for Choice Van East Cultural Centre, Vancouver BC - January 10 and 11
Wedged in the middle of what has evolved into a weeklong Rock for Choice extravaganza of music, workshops and direct action, the two folk-country-rock nights at the Van East Cultural Centre were both dissimilar and analogous at the same time. Thursday evening, the small crowd witnessed intimate acoustic performances by the likes of Neil Osborne (54-40), Kevin Kane (Grapes of Wrath), and Linda McRae (Spirit of the West). More than once performers prefaced apologies for their on-stage technical inadequacies with, "Someone else usually does this for me," which garnered chuckles from the crowd. The exception was lesser-known opener Sarah Wheeler, whose set featured strong country-twinged vocals backed by a full band. Conversely, Friday night featured four full acts playing to a sold-out crowd. Glenn Garinther mixed folk-pop sensibilities with punk rock and hip-hop story lines into songs that were sometimes melodic and other times hard and rhythmic. Backed by drums and two cellos, Garinther seemed to emanate a timid intensity, being clearly overwhelmed by the large crowd and impressive venue. Rae Spoon and band next took the stage, spitting out what has been referred to as "new skool folk music," and featuring a youthful Spoon on banjo. Carolyn Mark, in costume and accompanied by a gaggle of friends, proceeded to charm the pants off the crowd with her Patsy Cline-tinged alt-country tunes from her latest release, Terrible Hostess. Mark had the audience clapping and cheering, particularly when the entire band took to playing their instruments behind their backs. The evening ended off with the much-anticipated Be Good Tanyas, who have been busy in recent months touring the globe and recording a new album. Known for their three-part harmonies over soulful country blues, the Tanyas offered up a loose, somewhat spontaneous set featuring several new tunes that the band had never played before.